The Purge: Election Year, the third installment in the horror/dystopian series, has done well during its first week in the box office though the film has received mixed reviews among critics and horror fans alike. While the second movie was overall more satisfying than the first, this third entry veers heavily into the political aspect of the annual night of violence. This new direction has people split on whether they like that direction or whether they wish the story unfolded differently.
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) July 4, 2016
If you aren’t familiar with the Purge films, the series takes place in a dystopian America where a group called the New Founding Fathers (NFF) have come up with an annual night where for 12 hours, all crime, including murder, is legal.
When introduced in the first movie, the idea was that the night allows people to “release the beast,” or release all of the pent-up anger and violence within themselves. As a result of the annual Purge, crime is at an all-time low (well, except for that one night a year), and America is supposedly better off for it.
The audience quickly finds out the Purge in actuality presents society with an overwhelming moral quandary. Yes, violence is down throughout the rest of the year, but there’s an ever-widening gap between two social classes, namely, the rich and the poor. The poor are especially vulnerable on Purge night as they can’t afford the expensive fortress-like protection the wealthy enjoy.
The Purge: Election Year cleverly takes advantage of the fact that this year there’s an upcoming U.S. presidential election. While some believe this was a coincidence, it seems much more likely that it was planned out this way, especially with the way it was marketed and opened on the Fourth of July holiday weekend. The marketing campaign for The Purge: Election Year worked well in conjunction with the current turmoil of the political environment.
In The Purge: Election Year, Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) is the only survivor of a Purge when she was a little girl. Roan is running for president with the vow that, if elected, she will put an end to it. Rolling Stone calls the man running against her “a blustery Trump avatar,” adding, “to be fair, her opponent is really a Frankenstein’s monster composed of spare parts from Mitt Romney, John McCain and various GOP silver foxes.”
Sen. Roan’s opponent is desperate for the night of violence to continue, and because Sen. Roan is so outspoken about ending it, the rule that exempts high-ranking government officials from being targeted during the Purge is revoked. Therefore, Roan is predictably betrayed by members of her own security team and must survive the night for the chance to even make it to the election.
The horror of The Purge has been dialed back, but the violence seemed to turn up. https://t.co/BGlOrL7COd
— Polygon (@Polygon) July 10, 2016
Most critics of The Purge: Election Year seem to agree on one main idea – the film squanders its chance on delivering a strong message about parallels that can be drawn between modern society and the crazy concept of allowing crime to be legalized for 12 hours one night a year. Indeed, according to Rappler, the film skirts away from moral complexities and failed to deliver any sort of message about the concept of the Purge and how it adds problems to society rather than solve them.
Many moviegoers hated the first Purge film because they felt taking the concept and turning it into a home invasion movie was a wasted opportunity. Those same viewers ended up liking The Purge: Anarchy for expanding the viewpoint of the hellish night to characters who find themselves stuck outside in the open, unprotected.
Costing $10 million to produce but bringing in three times as much at $30 million opening weekend, it’s likely there will be a fourth film. One important question in these films has yet to be answered – with the gap between the rich and poor expanding every year, why do people resort to murder rather than theft? A fourth film should explore this question, and there is still plenty of stories to tell.
Have you seen The Purge: Election Year? Do you think there should be a fourth film in the franchise?
[Image via Universal Pictures]